Using Themes in Children's Church
Reaching, Impacting and Disciplining this generation is challenging, yet it is the primary objective of children's ministry. It takes lots of old fashioned commitment, training and good tools to effectively accomplish these goals.
I am passionate about God's Word and the impact it can make on lives, but sometimes helping children fall in love with the Bible is as difficult as getting children to eat their vegetables. When children are really hungry they will eat anything, but with cabinets full of empty snacks and sugary treats, nutritious foods are often left on children's plates. I think How can we help children develop a spiritual appetite in an environment where their lives are so full?
Children's ministry is not a carnival, a talent show or a spectator event. Children's ministry is introducing children to Jesus and developing disciples. If we are not doing that, then we may have effective baby sitting, but we do not have children's ministry. There can be no ministry without the leadership plugging into the source of ministry- Jesus. That begins with prayer. Make prayer a priority, if you want to make a difference in children's lives.
I see incredible talent in the leadership of children's ministers today, but talent can never replace the need for a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. You can have a great children's program with a talented leader and talented staff, but you will never make the life changing impact that God intended until you become a person of prayer.
2. Know your children.
You must lead from where the children are now, not where you want them to be. I have seen so many people in children's ministry talk over children's heads about subjects the adult leader is interested in talking about instead of discovering where the children are now. Can you answer these questions? Where are your children spiritually? What are their needs? What are their interest?
Every group is different. You teach a group of inner city children very differently than you do children from yuppie families. Talk to your children. Survey your children. Listen to them talk to each other. What movies are they watching? What games are they playing? What is their home life like?
I see children's leaders that want to cookie cutter another ministry and make it work in their environment. But a much better choice is to fit the curriculum to the needs of your children and your objectives.
Where do you want to take your class spiritually? As their leader, where are you going spiritually? Where do you want to take them spiritually? What is God leading you teach on?
3. Reach them where they are.
Children are not adults in little bodies. Children's ministry is very different than adult ministry. Your motive is not to train them to act like adults, but help them to fall in love with Jesus. Jesus understood His audience. He talked to the woman at the well about water. He talked to farmers about seed. Use object lesson, stories, puppets and drama-things children love to reach them where they are. Use lots of variety. Keep the segments short, but purposeful. Each object lesson, story etc. should have a common objective. A good curriculum can help you by providing a spring board for creativity.
Children need the basics. Realize that because it is old stuff to you, doesn't mean they already know it. Instead of always looking for a new message, listen in God's presence for His message. Having a message from God makes all the difference in the world.
4. Grab their attention.
Use bright colorful visuals, lots of action, movement and interaction with the children. No one wants to be bored, especially children. Keep your program moving. Use a team of volunteers with varying talents so one person is not in front of the class the entire class.
Curriculum from Let Us Teach Kids comes with set ideas to help you create a thematic atmosphere. Why is atmosphere important? Ask Disney World, McDonald or fine restaurants. It works! It draws people and it is good public relations! A colorful set communicates fun and the value you place on children.
5. Help them to taste and see that God is good.
When my children were young I tried to get them to eat nourishing foods by offering them a variety of foods. I encouraged them with "Try it. You'll like it." I didn't stop when they spit it out, or pushed it around on their plate.
Expose your children to an environment that will lead them into relationship or friendship with Jesus. Depending on where they are spiritually, involve them in prayer time. Let the children lead in prayer. Have a regular time of prayer in your children's service.
Fall in love with the Bible and its author. Express that passion to your students. Ministry is overflow. Let your relationship overflow to your students. No curriculum can do that for you. A good children's curriculum is a priceless tool, but it will never replace leadership that have a passionate relationship with Jesus.
Important things to remember in your children's church.
1. Children are not adults in little bodies.
2. Children are not like jugs to be filled. They are like kittens to be nurtured.
3. Like plants, all children are not the same. You don't water all the plants the same amount or you'll root rot some and deprive the other.
4. Children's church is not for you, it is for them.
5. Medicine may be good for them, but unless it taste good, it is awfully hard to get them to swallow it. Your presentation should be palatable.
6. In a class without effective discipline, everyone is punished, especially the teacher.
7. Love opens the gateway to the mind and the heart.
8. Why would anyone want to half do something as important as children's church. Give it your best.
9. Have fun. Make it fun for the kids. Laugh. Let them laugh.
10. Never do it alone. Partner with God. He will only show up where He is a priority.